A Battle between Life and Death

There is a cruël battle ’twixt1 two foes;
When Nature will decide it, none yet knows.
These two are Life and Death, which th’world2 divide,
And whilst3 it lasts, the cause will none4 decide.
First, Life is active, seeking to enjoy,                                       5
And Death is envious, striving5 to destroy.
When Life a curious piece of work doth make,
And thinks she will therein some pleasure6 take,
Then in comes Death, with rancor and with spleen,
Destroys it so, that nothing can be seen,                              10
For fear the7 ruins beauty might present,
Leaves not so much to make8 Life’s monument.
This makes Life mourn, to see her pains and cost
Destroyed, for what she doth in Death is lost.
Weeping, complains at Nature’s cruelty,                              15
That only made her for9 Death’s slave to be.
“I am his food; his sharp teeth do10 me tear;
When11 I cry he no12 pity hath, nor care.
The pain he puts me in doth make me roar,
And his pale face that’s grim affrights me sore.                 20
And when I think13 away from him to run,
I fall14 into his jaws, no ways can shun.
But why do I thus sigh, mourn, and lament,15
And use no means his inj’ry to prevent?16
I will call all my friends their strength to try;                     25
Either I’ll17 perish quite, or Death shall die.”
Then brings she Motion, nimble at each turn,
And Courage, which like to fire doth18 burn,
Preventing and inventing wits, to make
Sconces and forts, too strong for death to take.                  30
A regiment of arts, which19 with their skill
Assault20 her foes, and them sometimes do21 kill.
A brigade of clear strengths stands22 firm and sure,
And can all fierce23 assaults of Death endure.
A party of good24 healths, armèd25 so well                          35
As Death how to destroy them cannot tell.
A troop of growths, at first small, weak, and low,
Increasing every minute, numbers grow.
And many more such26 companies were27 there,
As all the passions, chiefly Hope and Fear.                          40
Love leads28 this army, his motto a heart;
Their arms are29 their free wills; all bear30 a part.
Death’s armies31 are32 all to destruction bent,
As Wars and Famine, both these pestilent.
Fury, Despair, and Rage did33 run about,                             45
Seeking which way that they may34 Life put out.
Troops, regiments, brigades in numbers are,35
As Sickness, Dullness, Grief, and Pensive Care.36
Of Feeble Age were37 few; they scarce could38 stand,
Yet in Death’s battle, fight will39 hand to hand.                   50
Hate leads40 the army in a dull slow pace,
And for his motto has41 a lean, pale face.
With several weapons Death poor Life doth42 take
Her as a prisoner, and his slave doth43 make.
And on her ashes doth44 in triumph ride,                            55
And by his conquest swells he45 big with pride.

Life’s force was strong enough to keep her state,
If Death had not befriended been with Fate,46
For she ’gainst Death could make her party good,47
Had not the Fates her happiness withstood,                        60
Who spin48 the thread of life so small and weak,
That of necessity it needs must break.
If not, they cut it into pieces small
And give it Death, to make him nets withal
To catch Life in;49 when closely she would hide                 65
Herself from Death, she50 in this net is tied,
Or in the chains of destiny is hung,
The world from side to side about is flung.
Having no rest nor settlement, she51 flies
About from Death, and yet she52 never dies,                       70
Runs into several forms Death to avoid,53
And yet those forms are all by Death destroyed.54
Death, like a snake, in Nature’s bosom lies,
Like one that flatters, but i’th’heart55 envies.
And Nature seems to Life an enemy,                                     75
Because she still lets Death a conqu’ror56 be.

  1. There is a cruël battle ’twixt] A Cruel Battle is betwixt 1653
  2. which th’world] the world 1653
  3. whilst] while 1664, 1668
  4. none] n’ere 1653
  5. striving] striviug 1664
  6. she will therein some pleasure] therein some pleasure for to 1653
  7. the] her 1653
  8. make] makes 1653
  9. That only made her for] VVhich did Her make only 1664; Which did her make only 1668
  10. do] doth 1653
  11. When] And when 1653
  12. he no] no 1653
  13. And when I think] VVhen I do think 1664; When I do think, 1668
  14. I fall] Falls streight 1653
  15. mourn, and lament,] lament, and mourn? 1653
  16. And use no means his inj’ry to prevent?] And try not means for to revenge my wrong. 1653
  17. Either I’ll] I’l either 1664; I’le either 1668
  18. Courage, which like to fire doth] Courages, that doth like Fire 1653; Courage, which like unto Fire doth 1664, 1668
  19. which] defending 1653
  20. Assault] And do assault 1653
  21. them sometimes do] sometimes 1653
  22. stands] stand 1653
  23. And can all fierce] VVhich can the 1653
  24. good] perfect 1653
  25. armèd] arm’d 1653
  26. more such] more 1653
  27. were] hath Life 1653
  28. leads] Lead 1664; lead 1668
  29. are] were 1664, 1668
  30. all bear] each bore 1664, 1668
  31. armies] Army 1653
  32. are] were 1664, 1668
  33. Despair, and Rage did] and Rage, Despair, that 1653
  34. may] might 1664, 1668
  35. are,] were, 1664, 1668
  36. Pensive Care.] Care; 1653
  37. Of Feeble Age were] And feeble Age, but 1653
  38. they scarce could] nor scarce can 1653
  39. fight will] would Fight 1664; would fight 1668
  40. leads] Lead 1664; lead 1668
  41. has] had 1664, 1668
  42. doth] did 1664, 1668
  43. Her as a prisoner, and his slave doth] And did a Prisoner, and his Slave Her 1664; And did a Prisoner, and his Slave, her 1668
  44. doth] did 1664, 1668
  45. swells he] he swell’d 1664, 1668
  46. had not befriended been with Fate] befriended had not been by Fate. 1653
  47. For she ’gainst death could make her party good, ] She against Death could make her party good, 1653
  48. Who spin] Who spins 1653; Which Spin 1664; Which spin 1668
  49. Life in;] in Life, 1653
  50. she] but 1653
  51. she] but 1653
  52. she] it 1653
  53. avoid] shun, 1653
  54. And yet those forms are all by Death destroyed.] But he destroyes these Forms, that Life in comes. 1653
  55. one that flatters, but I’th’heart] flattering friends, but yet in heart 1653
  56. conqu’ror] Conqueror 1653